Silk 3

Alternating Currents: Silk 3, Drew and Taylor

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Silk 3, originally released January 13th, 2016.

Drew: Superhero comics are full of tropes, from character types to specific situations our heroes find themselves in. There are a number of ways that a savvy creative team can avoid those tropes, but over a long enough publishing history, even the most innovative series will come upon ideas that have been done a million times before. Without characters and situations to distinguish one series from another, tone ends up being the signature of most superhero comics. Batman is darker than Superman, Deadpool is sillier than Spider-Man, and while those tones can change with creative teams and time, they tend to stay in the ballpark precisely because its the tone that separates one book from another.

I might make the same argument for sitcoms — any number of shows might have similar storylines or characters, but Seinfeld will never get you invested in character relationships the way How I Met Your Mother might. The notable exception is the “very special episode” — particularly common in family sitcoms in the ’90s — where shows would often jettison their tone wholesale in order to address a “serious” subject. These tend to be few and far between, but M*A*S*H is famous for slowly turning into a “very special episode” factory, eschewing the silliness of the early seasons in favor of earnest (though often heavy-handed) anti-war messages. That change wasn’t necessarily seen as a negative — indeed, M*A*S*H‘s final episode is still the most watched finale of any television series — but it must have been an odd transition for those who tuned in for irreverent fun. I find myself in a similar situation with this volume of Silk, where the tone seems to be shifting rather deliberately from the whiz-bang fun of Silk’s earlier adventures. Continue reading

Silk 5

silk 5

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Silk 5, originally released June 10th, 2015.

Spencer: Asking for help isn’t easy. It should be, because we all need help from time to time (or, perhaps more accurately, almost constantly), yet there’s often a stigma against asking for help. Needing helps means admitting that you can’t do everything all by yourself; oftentimes it means admitting that you were wrong, or that you failed. In the case of Cindy Moon — a.k.a. Silk — it also means revealing some of her deepest secrets. Yup, asking for help can be downright difficult, but it’s also absolutely essential if we want to keep moving forward in life. Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee’s Silk 5 finds Cindy finally reaching out for help in both her superheroic and civilian personas, and in both cases it’s without a doubt the best possible decision. Continue reading

Silk 4

silk 4

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Silk 4, originally released May 13th, 2015.

“My body can stretch all around this building. It’s natural state is a giant puddle of, well, me. It takes everything I have to hold myself together. So, yes. I’ve had anxiety.”

Reed Richards, Silk 4

Patrick: For obvious reasons, most superhero narratives that deal with mental illness stay pretty close PTSD or anger management problems. While debilitating issues in real life, in the realm of fiction, that all sounds very sexy — these afflictions either steam from or drive a character to action. Usually both. And it doesn’t much matter how negatively a writer tries to paint Bruce Wayne’s grief- and guilt-ridden revenge episodes, the reader always wants to see Batman kicking ass. Punisher may not be able to sleep without a gun under his pillow, but we sorta like that. Silk 4 toys with the idea that mental illness isn’t always so obvious and often isn’t so action-packed. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 18

amazing spider-man 18

Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 18, originally released May 6th, 2015.

Love fades. But things? Things last forever.

Tom Haverford, Parks and Recreation

Spencer: We live in a materialistic society that oftentimes tries to convince consumers that the key to happiness and success is simply owning a lot of stuff (thanks a lot for that, Don Draper). For these Tom Haverfords, their entire identity is wrapped up in their possessions, but even those who reject consumerism have to rely on their possessions to provide sustenance, clothing, and shelter. Yes, “things” are important to everyone, even if it’s in drastically different ways. Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Humberto Ramos’ The Amazing Spider-Man 18 pins both its stories on the power inanimate objects hold on their owners, and just as we’ve discussed, Parker Industries means something far different to its employees than Black Cat’s vast collection of stolen goods means to her. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 17

amazing spider-man 17

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 17, originally released April 1st, 2015.

O, I am fortune’s fool!

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Drew: Of all the heroes in Marvel’s pantheon, Peter Parker might be the most defined by his passivity. I don’t mean to say that he never takes decisive action, just that it’s almost always reactionary. Heck, he doesn’t even play a key role in his own origin — the spider bites him, then Peter lets the robber get away instead of doing something. This manifests itself in his perpetual bad luck, that is, outside forces that always make his life harder. It makes for great drama, but after a while, it also starts to paint Peter as kind of incompetent. Why is he always stammering for a cover story? Why is he always facing off against the same bad guys? Why is he always running out of web-fluid? The smartest part about The Superior Spider-Man was pointing out these obvious areas for improvement, shaking up the formula of Spider-Man as we know him. It was an exciting development, but Peter’s return to his body was also a return to form, failing to capitalize on many of Otto’s inarguably superior developments. Amazing Spider-Man 17 finds Peter coming up against some of those age-old problems, but this time, Anna Maria doesn’t have the patience to watch him keep bumbling through them. Continue reading

Howard the Duck 1

howard the duck 1

Today, Patrick and Ryan are discussing Howard the Duck 1, originally released March 9th, 2015.

Patrick: Why do you take a chance on buying a brand new issue of a brand new comic book series the day it comes out? When you think about it, you’re taking a pretty big risk regarding the quality of the thing you’re about to read. I suppose the worst thing that can happen is that you’re out four bucks and about eighteen minutes. But there are so many damn comics, and I know I’m always looking for place to cut my pull. Number ones, though? I roll the dice on those several times a week. But for every number one I do read, there are like 80 I don’t. So what’s the alchemy that made me pick up Howard the Duck 1 over, I don’t know, Spawn Resurrection 1? The character? The publisher? The artist? The writer? That’s a question the issue itself poses: how did you come to Howard the Duck? Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 3

amazing spider-man 3Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 3, originally released June 25th, 2014.

Patrick: If you go back and read our discussions on Superior Spider-Manyou’ll notice that one thing keeps popping up over and over again: what it means to be a hero. The concept of Otto’s identity, and how it melded with the concept of Spider-Man, was something that we brought up on a bi-monthly basis. I mean, if you look at our very first discussion of the series, Drew starts with the line “What does it mean to be good?” Writer Dan Slott was so good at putting Otto in situations that challenged both his heroism and his villainy, and it changed who Spider-Man is and how Spider-Man operates. With Peter Parker back in the driver’s seat, it’s becoming clear that some of those changes don’t wash away with a quick mind re-swap. Issue 3 finds Spider-Man — and everyone else — dealing with this latest discrepancy, and not everyone’s so happy with the restored status quo. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

spider-man 2Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, originally released May 21st, 2014.

Spencer: I’m a pretty big fan of Doctor Who, and one of my favorite aspects of the show is that its premise has infinite possibilities; the writers can literally take the Doctor to any location or time-period they can imagine. The only problem is that the network created a rule that every episode has to feature a monster of some sort. This isn’t a huge deal — monsters are an essential part of the Doctor Who mythos — but it becomes rather frustrating when there’s an episode that doesn’t need a monster, but has one shoehorned in anyway; at its best it’s distracting, but at its worst it can derail episodes completely. Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos’ The Amazing Spider-Man 2 suffers from a similar problem; while the scenes about Peter are quite enjoyable, everything about Electro’s inclusion feels shoehorned, and it threatens to derail the entire issue. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 1

amazing spider-man 1Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 1, originally released April 30th, 2014.

Patrick: If The Superior Spider-Man had us all asking what it means to be a hero (and, by extension, what it means to be a villain), then The Amazing Spider-Man seems poised to ask the question of what it means to be Spider-Man. It is a surprisingly wide question, with seemingly hundreds of discrete answers. What’s it mean to be Spider-Man? Kaine will tell you one thing, Miguel O’Hara will tell you another thing, Peter Parker will tell you something else, and Doc Ock (may he rest in peace) probably wouldn’t dignify the question with a response. Y’see, there are a lot of Spiders out there, and even more Spider-fans; what we want and what we expect from Spider-Man is so varied that even an issue designed to celebrate the hero can’t pick a tone and stick to it. It’s a fascinating, if uneven (and possibly even fascinatingly uneven), exploration of Spider-Man. Continue reading

Superior Spider-Man 20

Alternating Currents: Superior Spider-Man 20, Drew and MichaelToday, Drew and guest writer Michael D. are discussing The Superior Spider-Man 20, originally released October 30th, 2013.

Drew: Do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars? I can’t recall the exact circumstances, but for some reason, we watched the first half-hour of Return of the Jedi in my third grade class. It was the first time I can specifically remember experiencing a narrative out-of-order, and also the first time I so desperately wanted to go back to the start to put it all in context. That’s a sensation that I’ve become quite familiar with over the years (think of every time you’ve been drawn in by a random late-season episode of a TV series), but has become a weekly experience since I started reading comics. Comics can be particularly daunting in that light, as many series are building upon decades of continuity. Writers strive to balance honoring that history while remaining approachable to new readers, and none do it better than Dan Slott. Slott has always managed a careful regimen of harvesting threads he planted years before even as he seeds future stories, and Superior Spider-Man 20 finds him pushing the envelope on both fronts. Continue reading